It makes people argue, revile each other, demonstrate extreme intolerance, and sometimes resort to violence. The world seems split by it. No, not religion. I am talking about a much more rational divide – the selfie stick.
You either hate it or you love it. Spiritually an atheist, in this case I naturally gravitated to the anti-selfie stick side.
I know people who own the mechanical misery, and some are alright. They probably see me as this otherwise normal guy who – strangely – hates selfie sticks (SSs).
And while normal, I can’t wrap my head around owning one. Even when I was heading out for a long motorcycle ride alone through remote Himalayan countryside (see https://uncityblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/07/ladki-beautiful-kar-gayi-chull-at-15300-ft/ ) I refused to buy one. I asked my community of fellow mountain-dwellers if I could borrow one (strangely, that was okay). Nobody in these parts had one so I made do without it.
This strong dislike needed more clarity. I could feel it but couldn’t explain it. I reached out to fellow SS haters, and asked them to explain their dislike for the Vexatious Wand. The responses ranged in vehemence, eloquence and cuss-words. Kamal described it’s use as “This stupid obsession to capture everything with one’s faces front and center, or in an “artistic” corner of the frame”. My brother Vikram called the SS the “staff of Narcissus” and it’s users ugly. A grudgingly tolerant Roy Abraham* said “If humans, who are clearly still very work in progress creatures in terms of evolution, need the crutches of a selfie stick to celebrate life or themselves, I’d say let them have it. Even if they appear a tad stupid holding it.”
But my friend Bret Waters was the one who nailed it. “It’s selfies that I hate.” He wrote “We live in a world of narcissists. The dictionary defines narcissism as “excessive interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance”, and I’m pretty sure that taking pictures of oneself all day fits that description. The camera is meant to be pointed outward, capturing the amazing world around us. Spending the entire day with the camera pointed the other way is psychotic. Selfie sticks are simply an extension of this (pun intended). I hate the fact that if you go to any tourist attraction today people are not soaking up the natural and cultural monuments around them, they’re focused on using their selfie sticks to capture images of themselves. It’s bizarre. E.g. Yesterday we were at Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon memorial in Central Park in NYC. Instead of treating it as a memorial to quietly reflect, people were swarming all over it, adjusting their selfie sticks to take pictures of themselves. It’s weird, and it’s disrespectful.”
I saw the light. It made perfect sense that none of my uncity neighbours have an SS. No narcissist would choose to live 50 miles from the nearest half-decent salon or beautician or mall. Although I know this avid trekker – city girl – who always gets her eyebrows done before a trek. Go figure.
Now, I am mostly pretty accepting of personal freedoms. Using the SS is a personal decision. Of course there are arguments to be made in favour of users of the Pitiful Pole. Maybe the users are just super self-sufficient or fiercely independent. Maybe they are natural-born historians who like to chronicle everything visually and the Blasted Bestiality helps. Or certain situations – say paragliding – demand its use.
I still don’t like it. And if I see you use one, my instinct might be to ding you on the head with it. After all, I am not the Pope. Not of any organized religion, anyway.
*The guy who wrote this post, along with his more tolerant friend Roy Abraham are hosting the Himalayan Writing Retreat next month at a gorgeous Himalayan locale. It is a selfie-stick free event. You can learn more at https://uncityblog.wordpress.com/retreat/ .